Despite the promulgation of an “environmental law” in 1994, over the following three years no new mining projects were rejected by the Chilean government. Last month, a group of small farmers and Indigenous communities from the country’s Atacama region rebelled against increased threats posed by mining to their water supplies, by setting up a Defence Committee. Major users of water in the Atacama Desert are the Escondida copper mines – 57.5% owned by London-listed BHP Billiton, accompanied by London-based Rio Tinto.